2016 Indian Chief Dark Horse review

Date 10.8.2015

Presented by
  • Motorcycle Trader



Indian Chief Dark Horse

The Indian Motorcycle name dates back to the invention of the motorcycle itself. The brand may have a rich history, but there is no avoiding the fact the Massachusetts-based company went belly up in 1953. Over the course of the next 50 years a number of companies attempted to revive it and failed.

Finally, Indian’s knight in shining armour arrived in the form of Polaris Industries. Like those before it, Polaris has called on the heritage and unique styling of Indian and given the classic models a modern makeover – except for its new Chief Dark Horse, a name used for the first time only five years ago.

The black beauty is powered by the same Polaris-designed 1181cc ‘Thunder Stroke 111’ air-cooled V-twin and aluminium chassis as its siblings, but distinguishes itself with a sinister, blacked-out demeanour.

The ‘Thunder Black Smoke’ matte-black paint covers just about every inch of the big bike. The Classic’s 16-inch spoke wheels have been replaced with lighter, cast-aluminium items – in black. Even the Indian ‘War bonnet’ on the front fender is darkened.

The Dark Horse is 14kg lighter than the Classic due to the lighter wheels and the removal of the oil-cooler and driving lights – a solo seat has also been fitted.

The result is the lightest and fastest bike in the Chief line-up.

It may be the lightest Chief, but it’s still a lot of bike and, with a claimed dry weight of 340kg, it’s no featherweight.

Sitting on the low 660mm solo seat, it’s an easy classiccruiser- style reach to the pullback ’bar. I found the seat to bar to footboard triangle ergonomic perfection; simply a case of sitting back and enjoying the ride.

The handling is as sweet as the Chief Classic, and riding it reminds me of how great a job Polaris has done with the chassis. The feedback and feel it provides means you
can ride with a bit of gusto and not feel like the bike is being pushed outside its comfort zone.

Acceleration is not something you lack when you have an 1181cc engine mustering 139Nm at just 3000rpm. The only time you need to consult the gear indicator is when selecting neutral at a red light.

Up front, the 46mm fork provides a comfortable ride with 119mm of travel, but the single rear shock, with 94mm of travel, struggles to absorb larger road bumps. Hit a big bump and prepare to be bounced off the seat.

Measuring more than 2.6-metres long means you need to be careful when wheeling the bike backwards, it’s easy to bump into something or catch the low pipes on a high gutter.

At $26,995 (ride away), the Dark Horse is the entrylevel point to the Chief range, with the Scout the most affordable Indian from $17,995 (plus on-road costs).

For your money you’re are getting one seriously cool motorcycle and a nice ride that turns heads and perfectly captures Indian’s 100-plus year heritage, despite being based on a 21st century model.

– So much black
– Looks
– Handling

– So much black
– Bouncy rear shock
– Muffled sound


Type: Air-cooled, two-valves-percylinder, four-stroke, pushrod V-twin
Bore & stroke: 101 x 113mm
Displacement: 1811cc
Compression ratio: 9.5:1
Fuel system: EFI

Type: Six-speed, constant mesh
Final drive: Belt

Frame type: Composite alloy
Front suspension: Conventional 46mm fork, non-adjustable 
Rear suspension: Monoshock, adjustable for preload
Front brakes: Twin 300mm discs with four-piston calipers, ABS
Rear brake: 300mm disc with twin-piston caliper, ABS

Dry weight: 340kg
Seat height: 660mm
Fuel capacity: 20.8 litres

Power: Not given
Torque: 139Nm at 3000rpm

Price: $26,995 rideaway
Test bike supplied by: Indian Australia
Warranty: 24 months/unlimited kilometres


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